What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015)


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Hallelujah Lyrics

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Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Dec 21st, 2016 12:30pm report


    Knowing a little about LC's life may be helpful out. He was raised in a conservative Jewish family and his father was a Talmudic Scholar. Early in his life he was an admired and prolific poet. His poems, essays, and interviews made it clear he was in a life long struggle to understand God, which included a few years formally studying Buddhism. But, he always said that he was Jewish and had not abandoned his faith, and while he was not strict in his observance, when he passed away this year we learned he had requested a an Orthodox Jewish service.
    So, what does that tell us about the song. 1st it helps to understand the subtle difference between the Jewish and Christian meaning of the word Hallelujah. For Christians it is a word of praise for God, a nown..."I Praise You". But in Hebrew, it is a direction, a verb...(You/We) "Give Praise to God". So, what LC is saying in all the stanzas is that he (we) must still give praise to God, even when we are "cold & broken".
    His original recorded version only had the four verses that related to God and the struggle of faith. Years later he added the three new verses clearly related to the joy and pain of human love. In the Jewish faith, the joy in sex is one of God's gifts and to LC it had a spiritual dimension.
    LC once claimed to have written many more verses for the song/poem? that were never published.
    So, in the end it is an uplifting poem about the struggle to see the and understand the gifts of God. And, while LC was a Jew, he saw this as a common struggle for people of faith. And, as a poet, he would not be upset if you found your own meaning in his words. And, that's why he never bothered to explain them.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 25th, 10:23pm report


    If there were no words, if many of the powerful vocalizations were "humming" along, the harmonic vibration of the music is powerful enough to send a chill up my spin and bring a tear to my eye.
    The Hallelujah Chorus sung powerfully in an acoustically resonant cathedral always evokes a warm chill.
    Music soothes (or arouses) the savage beast.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 25th, 10:18pm report


    If there were no words, if many of the powerful vocalizations were "humming" along, the harmonic vibration of the music is powerful enough to send a chill up my spin and bring a tear to my eye.



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 17th, 10:50pm report


    To me the song speaks of the Christian who is in close and deeply satisfying communion and fellowship with God, but being human, makes choices that God has warned him about. As a child who test the limits of parental authority, he proves to himself (and learns the hard way) what God is warning against. As David and Samson each made their choices, their spiritual fervor for God, their power in Him, and their intimate knowledge of Him and what is happening under the heavens (on earth) was diminished in the process. Love could not be the beautiful and pure experience they so longed for— it was cold and broken because it could not reflect God’s principles and who He is. Where before they lived and moved and had their being in Christ, (moving in you) through the Holy Spirit (dove), now it was a cold and broken existence, Having learned a hard and bitter lesson, they could still go forward with God... only now their Hallelujah could not come from a place of greater purity, but from a place now tainted with evidence of their human-ness. Hence we all, in one way or another, cry out to God with our broken yet sincere Hallelujah. The melody resonates truth in our deepest heart, even if the meaning of the words might elude us.



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Oct 15th, 10:23pm report


    I think this song is about sin and how we of place blame for our own sin elsewhere rather than take responsibilty for it and repent. When he says “she tied you to the chair” its a metaphor placing blame upon Bathsheba for His, King Davids sin. When we place blame and dont take rrsponsiblilty we lose power in our lives. When we take responsibility that power is restored.
    And in our weakness and our strength we still praise the Lord. We say Hallelujah!



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 24th, 9:29pm report


    Here are my interpretations of the four most common verses, although you can explain the other verses with the same method. The song resonates around one word, Hallelujah, and in every instance it means one thing: orgasm.

    The first verse:
    ...The minor fall, the major lift,
    the baffled king composing Hallelujah...

    The king was not sure how to find a love and be sure he brought her to delight with an orgasm, so he set himself a task to learn how to 'compose' one he could be sure would work.

    The second verse:
    ... She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    and from your lips, she drew the Hallelujah...

    Seeing how he was bound and subject to the woman's whims, and as she seems to be playing the role of a dominatrix, she would not hesitate to reach sexual release from him. She has him helpless, and cooperative. She reaches an orgasm as he performs cunnilingus, an oral sexual act where the lips and tongue are used to bring about the desired orgasm.

    The third verse:
    …the holy dove was moving too,
    and every breath we drew was Hallelujah…

    They had a wonderful sex life at one time; they shared everything about themselves with each other. Each time they made love and reached an orgasm, it was a celebration. However, for some reason, after a while things started going badly.

    The fourth verse:
    …I’ll stand before the Lord of song,
    with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah…

    Not a difficult verse at all. He’ll be positioned in front of the “Lord“ of song, the only thing on his mind and tongue is an orgasm waiting to happen, as this is a common position for fellatio. The “Lord” is not God, so don’t be outraged.

    In an interview Leonard Cohen said there were many Hallelujahs, as sex has countless situations and forms. Here we see but a few.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  9.  

    anonymous
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    Sep 1st, 9:44am report


    It inspired a poem of my own, if I may share.
    Broken Hallelujah

    I was writing a love story
    When I listened to a lie
    That all I’ve known are broken loves
    So I let my story die
    Attacked I was with unbelief
    Did I really know His name?
    And with every ugly thing I’ve done
    To bring upon me shame

    I came to doubt my own esteem
    And what I knew of love.
    But then God led me to a song
    That struck a chord in me
    By one of His own chosen people
    Who spoke deeply into me
    A broken hallelujah
    Set my spirit free

    I listened to it over and over
    Every singer and arrangement
    And how people lit up when they sang it
    It left me in amazement
    Amazing Grace came to me
    King David in an old covenant understood
    The grace of a forgiving God
    Can draw a song out of man

    Now I feel I can go on
    In my sanctified imagination
    And finish my love story
    I don’t have to be perfect
    Or know love perfectly
    Just let the blaze that lights in every word
    Draw the broken hallelujah out of me

    Hallelujah, Hallelujah
    Hallelujah, Hallelujah

    Copyright August 31, 2017
    Judy Pendell



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 30th, 8:57pm report


    Incredible faith that a person can be broken and still praise the Lord. I believe that the Jewish people survive because of the broken hallelujah!



  11.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 23rd, 8:08pm report


    I honestly think the most beautiful part of this song isn't found in its interpretation. Instead, we're treated to the words of a poet whose words speak to us, and we find different meanings and interpretations. This piece speaks on literal, religious, sexual, and social levels simultaneously. And while Cohen owns the iconic version, I'd recommend listening to k.d. lang too. Amazing.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Aug 23rd, 8:47am report


    I'm curious about an unnoted verse here, below-
    You say I took the name in vain
    I don't even know the name
    But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
    There's a blaze of light
    In every word
    It doesn't matter which you heard
    The holy or the broken Hallelujah

    Here the singer seems to be noting his lover is criticizing him trivially about his use of Hallelujah, which suggests an active role for the lover regards the writing of the song.

    And some Cohen sites don't list some of the Jeff Buckley version verses so does anyone know if Cohen did write these?

    Baby I've been here before
    I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew ya
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    But love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    There was a time when you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show that to me do ya
    But remember when I moved in you
    And the holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was hallelujah

    Well, maybe there's a god above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    It's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

    I'm curious as these verses definitely move the song in a different direction, to a more failed romance mood whereas without then the song seems a more general musing.



  13.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 23rd, 7:37am report


    As beautiful and layered as this song is I have an issue with artists approaching this as "Christian" music or adding to "Christmas" concerts, simply due to the word, Hallelujah. While their may be religious figures referenced throughout, I don't believe Mr. Cohen's intent was to retell the stories of David, Sampson, or imply this was God singing to them. This is a pretty obvious reflection on a love affair that is coming to and end, at least it is obvious to me and therefore a huge reason I find it unsettling and pandering when artists sing it out of context on holiday specials or at times of tragedy. Makes you wonder if they've ever listened to it or read the words at all? I recall hearing an interview years ago with Donna Fargo. She talked about recording, ONE TOKE OVER THE LINE. She said she and her producer recorded it because of the words, "Sweet Jesus". They assumed it was a "Christian" song and recorded it. She explained how shocked and embarrassed she was to learn what this song was about.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Jul 12th, 7:32pm report


    Well there have been quite a few iconic figures in the Bible. David was not only a formidable warrior but a talented musician. He is not known, however for losing his strength by having his hair cut off. that was Samson. Either case equally represent individuals pre-selected by the God of Abraham. David was to be the unlikely King of Isreal after Saul and Samson was a Nazarite, a status and destiny bestowed on him by his mother. I really think this song is about the relationship both had with the Lord. I think it is a love song, not romantic to be sure, but a love song the Lord is singing to some of his most cherished children. Both had left their first love, the Lord for something far less valuable and only seemingly desirable.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 30th, 6:36am report


    It's not only about David, but about Gideon too (your faith was strong, but you needed proof) and about Simson, Delilah tied him to a kitchen chair and cut his hair, thus breaking his throne. It actually has different layers.



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Jun 4th, 6:42am report


    C'mon guys...can it really be that no one has noticed that the song is about David and Batsheva? Our admiration for Leonard Cohen should not go to our head to the extent of making him such a philosopher...a great poet, a great singer, an interesting man, yes.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    May 21st, 2017 5:02pm report


    Quite simply, I believe it's about God's ever-presence in all things, good and bad, joy and pain.



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Apr 29th, 2017 4:09pm report


    the two Hebrew words read right to left and pronounced, as Halalu Yah and translated as “Praise God” an imperative verb, are a command to exhort the name of God. Examples of the use of this form of the New Testament “Hallelujah” is to be found in Ps 149.1,9 and Ps 150.1,6. In the New Testament Christians are taught to exhort, praise, and thank God for all things both pleasurable and painful in their lives. It seems to me that interpretations that Cohen’s Hallelujah is doing just that are the correct interpretations.



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